References for Historical Text
Ste. Claire, Dana. True Natives: The Prehistory of Volusia County.
Florida: The Museum of Arts and Sciences, 1992.
Conte, Christian. “Back to the Beginning”. A History of Flagler County Fall 2002: Pg 4
Two inherent natural characteristics of the barrier island habitat have, for eons, encouraged human settlement in St. Johns County. First, the immense biological productivity of the estuary provides food for its inhabitants. Since many oceanic fish return periodically to spawn in the estuary and inlets, they are especially good places for fishing. Second, in the area of dense vegetation, passable only with difficulty, the estuary also provides the most feasible mode of transportation.
Along the corridor, evidence has been discovered of the earliest inhabitants, prehistoric animals such as the mastodon, camel, tapir, and sloth. Evidence has been found that 10,000 years ago man may have hunted here, but no evidence that he lived here.
The Archaic Period
Several thousand years ago, Archaic period hunters and gatherers began to expand out of the central highlands of Florida near the present-day cities of Ocala and Gainesville and move into areas along the St. Johns River where they found an abundance of fish, game, and freshwater shellfish (mainly snail and mussel).By 4,000 B.C., prehistoric peoples were well established in villages along the river, living there year-round rather than seasonally. For the first time, people became more sedentary in lifestyle, settling in one area. A stable supply of food found in the river environs attracted and supported more people. Eventually large villages and ceremonial centers began to emerge. These Archaic populations are known archaeologically as the Mount Taylor culture, named after the Taylor site, a freshwater shell mound on the St. Johns River in Volusia County.
The St. Johns Period
The end of the Orange period is marked by changes in pottery types resulting from the use of different tempering materials such as sand, which were used along with or in place of plant fibers. By 500 B.C., Orange pottery was replaced by a chalky ware known by archeologists as St. Johns. The introduction of this ceramic type marks the beginning of the St. Johns cultural period, a way of life which spanned two thousand years, lasting until the arrival of European explorers around 1500 A.D. While much larger in number, prehistoric populations of this period practiced the same pattern of living developed by Archaic peoples centuries before, including shellfish harvesting, hunting, fishing, and plant collecting. It was also during this period that domesticated plants, mainly corn and squash, were used for the first time. The St. Johns people occupied two major regions of Volusia County: the St. Johns River basin to the west and the environmentally rich estuaries of the Halifax and Indian Rivers on the east coast. Abundant resources in both areas allowed prehistoric populations to grow and expand throughout these regions of the county, establishing permanent villages as well as ceremonial and political centers at locations where food was most plentiful. Some archaeologists believe that St. Johns groups made seasonal rounds from coast to river and back again to most effectively exploit food resources which were available at different times of the year. However, research at the Edgewater Landing sites and other locations indicates that people there exploited the coast year-round. It is also likely that resources in both areas were diverse and abundant enough to allow St. Johns populations to stay in one area without having to make seasonal migrations to survive.Both the river and coastal regions are marked by enormous shell mounds and the remains of prehistoric foods: snail and mussel in the freshwater environs and oyster and clam on the coasts, all of which served for centuries as the staple for the St. Johns diet. In particular, shell mounds on the east coast, such as Turtle Mound in Canaveral National Seashore and Green Mound in Ponce Inlet grew to colossal proportions. These coastal sites represent the largest shell middens in North America. The largest of these sites, Turtle Mound, has been estimated at one time to have reached 75 feet in height.An extensive network of oyster middens and other sites are located in the lower Spruce Creek basin. Here, rich estuaries produced foods which supported large groups of St. Johns people. One of the largest prehistoric earthen works in Florida, the Spruce Creek Mound, is located at the basin on a high bluff. This site functioned as a major ceremonial and political center for St. Johns period inhabitants of the basin. Sand burial mounds such as the Normand Mound are scattered throughout the surrounding areas.It appears that St. Johns period inhabitation in the Spruce Creek basin was greater than that of the Tomoka River Basin, an area which is mostly known for its Archaic period coquina middens. However, the St. Johns people also used the lower Tomoka River area, as evidenced by many sites which date to this period. Of these, the site of Nocoroco at the tip of the Tomoka State Park peninsula is the most significant. This strategic location was a large village and political focal point for St. Johns people who lived in the Tomoka basin. It is one of the latest known St. Johns period sites in Volusia County. It had been occupied by a large number of Native Americans when the Spanish explorer Alvaro Mexia arrived in 1605. Another important late period village is the nearby Riverband site, which produced several fire pit features lined with burned corn cobs.
The St. Johns people lived in many areas along the Halifax and Indian Rivers, as evidenced by the numerous oyster middens and burial mounds located in the intracoastal area. Good examples of these include the Ormond Mound in Ormond Beach (one of the largest and best preserved burial mounds in Volusia County), the Riverwood Plantation middens in Port Orange, the Old Fort Mound in downtown New Smyrna Beach (an extensive oyster midden), the Edgewater Landing middens, and Ross Hammock (a burial mound and midden complex south of Oak Hill). Many other intact and remnant shell middens and burial mounds are located within the city limits of Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, and New Smyrna Beach. Several of these serve inadvertently as foundations for modern-day homes and businesses.
Along the St. Johns River, enormous shell mounds and sprawling middens are composed of fresh water snail instead of oyster. Unfortunately, the largest of these were carried away for road fill in the early 1900s. These include Tick Island, a focal point for St. Johns people as well as Archaic hunters and gatherers, and the Enterprise midden on Lake Monroe. Jeffries Wyman, a scientist in the 1870s, described the Enterprise site as being over 20 feet in height, 130 feet in width along the lakeshore, and extending for a distance of 400 feet-- roughly the size of a football field. These and other extant sites were areas where St. Johns populations concentrated and consequently developed political and ceremonial systems to organize their societies.
Another important site which was populated throughout the St. Johns Period is Hontoon Island. The area around this site is well known for several large wooden carvings which were recovered from the St. Johns River. The wooden animal figures, including an owl, a pelican, and an otter, represent ceremonial markers or totems of individual clans of people at Hontoon Island. Excavations there have revealed evidence of plant use and possible domestication.
The nearby Thursby Mound in Blue Springs State Park has also produced a spectacular array of artifacts which indicate complex social and ceremonial practices. Specialized mound construction and exotic artifact, including gold and silver ornaments, indicate contact with outside cultures during the late St. Johns period.
Many other St. Johns period sites dot the river basin, including middens around Lake Harney to the south and Lake George to the north. The Bluffton Burial Mound, Stark's Hammock on Lake Beresford, Lemon Bluff Stone near Osteen, Stone Island on Lake Monroe, and Kimbal Island all are well known sites located along the St. Johns River.
Little is known about the use of natural resources by St. Johns people between the river and coast, although sites like the Lake Ashby midden in central Volusia County provide evidence that these areas were being used during this time. This site, a freshwater snail midden, suggests that some St. Johns people were living on the shores of the inland lakes either seasonally or year-round within the interior portions of the county.
The late St. Johns period peoples in Volusia County were known historically as the Timucuan Indians, a name which was given to them by the early European explorers in Florida. The works of the French artist Jacques le Moyne in 1564 and other early descriptions provide archaeologists and historians with invaluable information about the lifestyles of the Timucua and their prehistoric ancestors. These early documentations, coupled with archaeological information, give us a relatively accurate picture of native life.
We know from this information that in addition to collecting shellfish from local waters for food, native Floridians hunted deer and any other animals -- even alligators -- with bows, arrows, and spears. They also fished and trapped turtles and birds. Plants, roots, nuts (mainly acorns and hickory nuts), and berries were also gathered for food. A popular method of cooking foods involved the stewing and boiling of meats and plants in various combinations in a large pottery kettle. Fish and animals were barbecued whole and preserved on smoke racks made of wood. Crop harvests were often stored in structures similar to corncribs.
Some native groups grew corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and other domesticated plants-- a renewable source of food that ensured a stable diet. It is thought that in the spring some of these groups would abandon their large coastal villages, divide into smaller farming groups, and grow crops in the fertile grounds of the St. Johns River Valley and around the interior lakes of Central Florida.
Some Timucuan villages were fortified by a palisade line or a wall made of sharpened, upright timbers. A village had a large central community house where ceremonies, religious activities, and political gatherings took place. This central structure was where the chief usually resided as well. Surrounding the community center were smaller huts which housed families. These houses were circular and dome-shaped in form with Palmetto-thatched walls and roofs. Inside, wooden benches were used for sitting and sleeping.
While the Timucuans wore little, sometimes clothing consisting only of strands of Spanish Moss, their elaborate practice of body ornamentation and use of jewelry made for some colorfully decorated natives. Chiefs and other important members of the community were often tattooed from head to foot as a symbol of authority. Men wore their hair up in a "topknot" adorned with feathers or stuffed animals. Dyed fish-bladder ear plugs and long shell and bone pins were worn by both men and women. Finely crafted jewelry was made of shell, pearls, bone, wood, stone, and metal.
Accustomed to near the water, natives used wooden dugout canoes for transportation and hunting on the extensive intracoastal waterways and the St. Johns River. The dugouts were made by hollowing out the body of a tree, usually a pine or cypress, by burning and scraping away the interior wood. Many of these wooden vessels have been found preserved in the rivers and lakes of Volusia County.
When an important Timucuan died, he or she was laid to rest in a sand or burial mound and often buried with possessions. Over time, these burial mounds would grow to enormous proportions as more bodies were interred and covered with sand. It is estimated that the well-known Ormond Mound contains the remains of more than one hundred individuals.
The original inhabitants of Flagler County eventually became known as the Eastern Timucuan Indians who lived in walled-in villages and worshipped the deer that roamed the area.
Although thousands of years separate the Flagler County residents of today from their ancestors, the men and women who lived here were really not that different from those today. They were highly specialized, had an organized society with chiefs and priests, and warred with other tribes.
The prehistoric settlements along the estuary were abandoned long ago, but the cultural remnants left by the inhabitants remain. No fewer than 50 archeological sites exist along the A1A corridor. Many of these sites are easily accessible from the highway.
The Spanish Era
When European explorers touched the shores of the New World in the late 15th century, they quickly discovered that they were not alone. The Americas were already inhabited by a diverse and widespread population of native peoples.
The Europeans were treated to a colorful procession of decorated natives emerging from the forests. The Indians, so called because the Europeans thought they had landed in the Asian Indies, came adorned in animal skins,
stuffed bird headdresses, and an abundance of jewelry, including dyed fish bladder earrings. The Florida native custom of tattooing oneself from head to toe with rich blues, reds and blacks must have been striking for these first European tourists.
Archaeologists and historians know that Native Americans were highly adapted to their environment. Although their customs and dress were unusual for the eyes of Europeans, they were not the savages often portrayed in Old World literature.
In fact, they were a highly sophisticated race of people who, by the time Columbus arrived, had organized themselves into complex social systems in towns and cities throughout the Americas. Their elite political networks were intricate and far-reaching, and their calendar and knowledge of astronomy was advanced. Indigenous medical practices were equal or superior to any of those known in the Old World.
The Native Americans were content in their world and were comfortable with their enduring customs and beliefs. Nevertheless, they became hosts to a foreign group of people and a new way of life. After European contact, they became subject to a variety of social and political pressures. In the name of the Old World doctrine, many of the natives were forcibly converted to Catholicism, cruelly treated, and collected by the thousands as slaves.
Although many resisted Europeans, few natives could combat Old World diseases to which they had little or no resistance. The Europeans unknowingly carried to the New World such deadly diseases as measles, smallpox, typhoid fever, influenza, and bubonic plague. Within two centuries after Columbus's first voyage, millions of Native Americans died in epidemics. It was quiet pestilence, rather than imposed hardship, that ultimately led to the demise of many of the complex and widespread Native American cultures that inhabited the New World.
The first European settlers to the New World, the Spanish (1565-1763), were interested in the area as a military outpost and a point of departure for missionaries to establish missions among the native inhabitants.
However, the English were quick to recognize the importance of the area for its naval stores (tar, pitch, turpentine, and resin used for caulking and rigging wooden ships), the availability of oak for shipbuilding, and the transportation accessibility because of the river to sea link.
In the age of exploration, inlets provided sailing ships with access to fresh water and provisions. Inlets were particularly attractive if they opened into a large bay and provided protected anchorage, for such sites had potential for fortification, settlement, and therefore commerce. A prime example is the inlet leading into Matanzas Bay and present-day St. Augustine. The St. Augustine site had two other attributes as well. The easterly trade winds and the course of the Gulf Stream forced Spanish ships -- homeward bound and laden with gold -- to sale close to the coast until about the latitude of present-day Jacksonville. At that point they would catch the westerly trades and head northeast across the Atlantic. This course induced the French to threaten that shipping, which in turn, compelled the Spanish to found, fortify, and settle in St. Augustine in 1565.
The Spanish had provided land grants to its loyal subjects, but these were quickly invalidated by the British and new land grants were awarded to persons of status. Most of these grants are found along the rivers and again reflect the transportation importance of the river and the sea. A 20,000-acre grant was awarded to Levett Blackburn in 1766, but Blackburn never made use of the grant. Thus, the grant was broken up into smaller parcels and re-granted. Col. John Graham, who had served as Lieutenant Governor of Georgia and district superintendent of Indian Affairs, was awarded five tracts of 500 acres which included much of the corridor. However, development of any settlement in the corridor was probably done by Alexander Paterson. Paterson reported constructing a small house and some outbuildings on his 500-acre plantation. Paterson never secured his claim. Perhaps he could have been referred to as little more than a squatter.
The Second Spanish Period (1783-1821) brought a renewed interest in the corridor, with Spain seeking to turn the colony into a profitable agricultural complex. Josiah Dupont applied for and was awarded (in 1792) two grants, one on the west side of the river, a part of the Graham grant. The second parcel was located in the area from south of Washington Oaks to Fox Cut. The area later was to become plantations of General Joseph Hernandez, Florida's first territorial representative to the U.S. Congress. Dupont chose the Mala Compra Plantation area for his headquarters, where he constructed buildings and farmed. Here he grew cotton as well as corn and other provision crops. With the settlements came conflicts with the Indians, who had often used these areas on a seasonal basis. The Dupont plantation was attacked, but Dupont escaped to join his family in St. Augustine.
To the north, the Marineland area was a plantation owned by Joseph Bonely (Boneli or Bonnely). The Indians attacked this plantation, killing Bonely's son and kidnapping the rest of the family. As a result of the attack, Bonely sold 600 acres of his orange grove to Gabriel W. Perpall, probably to raise ransom money for his family. In 1885 Benjamin Dupont (likely a descendent of Josiah Dupont) was indicated as the owner of Buen Retiro, previously owned by Perpall and Bonely.
After Dupont left Mala Compra in 1802, the Spanish government considered the land abandoned and granted 800 acres to Father Michael Crosby in 1804. Crosby claimed to have inhabited and cultivated the plantation for more than 10 years. In 1816 Mala Compra was sold to Joseph Hernandez, son of Martin Hernandez, a Minorcan leader of the failed Turnbull Colony in New Smyrna. This was one of three plantations Hernandez acquired along the east side of the river. It was the middle plantation between Bella Vista (Washington Oaks Gardens State Park) and Buyks Hammock. Sometimes called St. Ann's, Buyks Hammock was named after Dupont's daughter Ann, who married Augustus Buyk (or Buyck). These plantations were important holdings for one of the largest landowners in the state. Mala Compra (determined to be eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places) was the residential plantation of the Hernandez family.
The plantations of the area were known for their sea island cotton and citrus. The Hernandez and Bulow plantations to the west were known for their sugar production. The ruins of the Mala Compra settlement are located within Bings Landing County Park. (Mala Compra means "bad bargain" or "bad purchase" in Spanish.) Joseph Hernandez became an important political and military leader during the Territorial Period (1821-1845). During the Second Seminole War he was a brigadier general of the Florida Militia and captured Seminole Chief Osceola in a controversial situation. Recognized for his leadership, he not only was the territory's first representative to Congress, but he was also Mayor of St. Augustine.
During the Second Seminole War, the Indians destroyed the plantations. Although there were attempts to revive the plantations after the war, they were relatively unsuccessful.
From the 16th century to the 19th century – under the successive governments of Spain, Great Britain, Spain again, and finally the United States -- St. Augustine, with its fortifications and harbor, offered a measure of security and economic opportunity to people of diverse cultures. The City of St. Augustine and its environs are filled with structures, artifacts, and customs from these earlier periods.
Remarkable scenic and historic views of the Ancient City and its strategic location can be seen from the Vilano fishing pier, the top of the Usina Bridge, the upper deck of the Castillo de San Marcos, the Bridge of Lions, the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse, and of course from the streets of the City - all within or close to the A1A corridor.
The Modern Period
During the Civil War in the 1860s, Confederates used the beach area as a salt works to produce salt from seawater. The salt was used to cure beef jerky from cattle raised in Florida. The beef was shipped north to feed the Confederate troops. Yankee patrols along the Matanzas River unsuccessfully sought to locate the salt works during the war to stop this important source of food production. After the war, the new settlers known as Florida "Crackers" would make an annual pilgrimage to the beach and secure their year's supply of salt. Representative to the U.S. Congress, was one of Florida's largest land owners. He operated three plantations within the scenic corridor: Belle Vista, Mala Compra, and Byck's (Bike's/Buyck's) Hammock or St. Ann's. He also operated one west of the scenic corridor called St. Joseph's within what is now Palm Coast. Belle Vista was located in Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. Mala Compra, Hernandez' plantation residence, was within what is now the Bings Landing County Park and the Mala Compra Plantation Greenway. Byck's Hammock was south of Mala Compra in the Fox Cut area. The ruins of Hernandez' plantation residence are located within Bings Landing County Park. There has been significant effort by Flagler County citizens to excavate and preserve the artifacts and ruins of Hernandez' residence at Mala Compra. In addition, this effort includes recognition of the historic importance of the ruins by seeking the National Register designation and the construction of a Museum/Interpretative Center within Bings Landing County Park. Currently, Flagler County Tourist Development funds and a grant from the Florida Division of Historical Resources are in place to complete the research and begin construction of the first phase of the museum. The County recently expanded the park by acquiring 4.5 acres to the south.The name of the first development in the A1A Ocean Shore Scenic Corridor was "Sea Beach" and later "Ocean City Beach". As the name indicates, the area was known for its access to the ocean. Another important aspect of the corridor was Smith Creek and later the Intracoastal Waterway. This "river to sea" scenic corridor with water to the east and west became a "retreat" for many of the early Westside settlers. It was here that they came to enjoy the bounty of the ocean and the river.Not much is known about the prehistoric uses of the corridor, but it was the northern boundary of the waterway connecting to the ocean at Ponce Inlet. Prior to the first settlers, the first building on the beachside probably was a weatherboard building constructed in 1869 known as a "House of Refuge" for shipwrecked sailors. The building later housed the U.S. Life Saving Corp, who would launch boats from the beach to help boats in trouble.There was a six mile land bridge that prevented water access to the Matanzas River to the north. With the completion of the "barge canal" in 1883, the area was provided with a waterway highway where commercial and recreational opportunities were expanded. The original canal can be seen at Fox Cut (north of the City of Beverly Beach).
With the turn of the century came development of farms on the Westside. Some settlers ventured to the Smith Creek area to plant orange and peach trees and establish dairy farms. Visitors enjoyed oyster and clams which they gathered from the creek. Even then, the wildlife of the area was remarkable. The settlers and visitors would be entertained by a variety of marsh birds and the exciting vistas, or feast from the bounty of the land and waters.
By 1915, the west side of the creek was the location of the city's first store, as well as docks where boats from Jacksonville would offload supplies. This small ferry was constructed to connect the docks with the beachside. This provided supplies for George Moody to begin development of a beachside community. Once several Moody-family homes were built beachside, the residents and visitors wanted to be able to travel by car along the island. So Mr. Moody constructed a two-car ferry which connected to a corduroy road of palm trees that was necessary to get the vehicles through the marsh. Besides the Moody Subdivision, C. A. Cochran homesteaded a mile of oceanfront to the north of the Moody property while John M. Fuquay and L. D. Upson homesteaded .5 miles each to the south. The beach became a popular area for family picnics, swimming, fishing, and camping – much like today's beachside community.
During the boom times of the twenties and into the thirties, roadway development of A1A continued. The Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine and the Claude Varn Bride at Matanzas Inlet made travel along the A1A corridor faster. Many war era travelers found a vacation paradise. Development followed in years to come. War times bring special memories along the coast.
Coastal Military History
On Veteran’s Day 2009, the veterans were memorialized at Lakeside Park, St. Augustine Beach, Florida with a beautiful memorial dedicated to the six branches of the Armed Services of the United States of America. Tributes were made by local dignitaries with former Senator George McGovern making the keynote address. The following is a brief recount of some World War II era history. The U.S Coastguard has helped and influenced the A1A corridor. The Byway runs from Ponte Vedra to Flagler Beach, and on this corridor, the U.S. Coast Guard has played a big part in making the history for the byway as we know it today. The waters off Flagler Beach and the entire U.S East Coast were a breeding ground for enemy activity during World War II. German Submarines were patrolling the U.S. coast by the beginning of 1942. Their mission was to disrupt shipping lines by sinking defenseless transport ships, and for a time, there mission was complete. Nazi U-boats sank 274 ships off the east coast in June of 1942 alone, 216 of them were in Florida waters. A report in the May 14, 1942 Flagler Tribune stated the situation briefly: “From information available it appears the Florida coast has become one of the most active fields for Nazi submarines, ships being torpedoed with disturbing regularity.” While all this was going on the Navy frantically tried to deal with this problem, war planners began to worry about the Germans using their submarines to land spies or begin an invasion of the continent. To keep this from happening, the residents of the beach area were ordered to follow important regulations to ensure the beach’s invisibility at night. The lights had to be out by dark, and A1A was closed at night. Drivers were required to slather black paint over their headlights. At the end of A1A a watchtower was built to observe passing aircraft. Citizens would volunteer, and climb the tower and scope the skies, comparing the planes they spotted with a picture book of unwelcome aircraft. One of these books is currently on display at the Flagler Beach Historical Museum.
The Coast Guard was organizing a beach patrol to further protect the cities from invasion. Even though plans for this patrol had been made-up prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, they were not put into force until 1942. After they started the plans, the Coastguard’s men started arriving in Flagler Beach. The Coast Guard quickly gained a nickname from the locals as, the “sand pounders”. At first, they used the Moody Hotel as their station, because of a lack of hot water the 250-man unit was forced to move to Fuquay. That station also had its issues, so the Coast Guardsmen finally settled into a building, which is now contained within Gamble Rodgers State Recreation Area. The building had been used off and on since 1869 as a shelter for shipwrecked sailors. The addition of latrines, a mess hall and officer’s quarters made it a perfect home for the Coast Guard. Gamble Rodgers is now one of the most popular recreational areas in Flagler Beach.
None of the beach patrol business was taken too seriously by the Coast Guard, until some surprise events happened out of the blue. In the dark of night, four Nazi agents slipped out of their U-boat off the coast of Jacksonville and piled into a rubber raft. They paddled to the Ponte Vedra shoreline. The beach was deserted so the Nazi agents quickly changed into civilian clothes. They buried their uniforms in the sand along with their tools of sabotage, which included blasting caps, detonators, and capsules of sulfuric acid. They planned to use these items later in their mission. Completely unnoticed, the Nazis began the long walk to Jacksonville. Ponte Vedra was not the only beach the Nazis had managed to land on. The agents were part of a special operation to sabotage key factories and railroads and disrupt the American war machine. Four nights before the Florida landing, some fellow Nazi agents landed near Amagansett, Long island.
As it turned out, one of the Amagansett agents apparently lost confidence in his mission. Several days after landing, he gave himself up to the FBI and revealed the location of the rest of the Nazis, including the Florida agents. Two of the Florida agents were arrested in New York City, while the other two were captured in Chicago. All four were sentenced to death.
All this helped to speed along the transition to professional beach patrol. The beach patrol was made up unarmed, one-man patrols to fully armed patrols in pairs. Approximately 24,000 Coast Guard officers and seamen were deployed to guard 3,700 miles of the American seacoast.
After some time the Coast guard was aided by man’s best friend. 2,000 trained dogs took the place of a human patrol partner. In September of 1942, horses became the next partner to beach patrol. The Florida coast is the first place horse patrols were allowed. The coast guard then hired some experienced riders to run these patrols. Both dog and horse patrols started in Flagler County.
By 1944, men became needed for sea duty. The risk of harm or invasion had diminished along the Florida coast. The number of Coast Guardsmen gradually declined. By July of that year Coast Guards were no longer needed on the shores. The Flagler Coast Guard Station sat abandoned.
In 1954, The Florida Park Service acquired the Flagler Station site, and they turned it into Flagler Beach State park. The Park was renamed in 1992 to honor Gamble Rodgers, a native-Floridian folk singer who died at the park trying to save a drowning visitor. Most of the Coast Guard towers set up along the beaches are still there today; even though they are re-built, they are still a great part of Flagler’s history.
St. Augustine also dealt with some problems that came from World War II. After the city heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the reality of wartime became a major concern. Gasoline rationing was a threat to visiting families and tourism. St. Augustine acquired wartime measures that ended tourism until the war was over. Waterfront lighting was eliminated and even the lighthouse’s beacon was dimmed to prevent its beam from aiding the u-boats in their hunt for merchant ships. As a result, the city lost its appeal to the tourists who, up until the beginning of the war, had provided 80 percent of the city’s income.
The Coast Guard arrived in St. Augustine in 1942 and established a training academy at the old Ponce De Leon Hotel. The Academy trained many brave men and women how to protect the coast and suspect unwelcome enemies. The Coast Guard also brought its auxiliary SPARS to St. Augustine. Over the next three years, thousands more followed. This arrival of servicemen provided immediate economic benefits to St. Augustine.
The following passage is a story from naval ensign, George Jackson; he was stationed in Mayport when his story took place. His job was to watch out for sub-chasers. On this specific night, George took his girlfriend to his station on the beach to fool around, little did he know what was about to unfold.
“There was an enormous explosion and George said, "That's a torpedo." It was between Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach. It was very close...First there was an explosion, then another... and then a third... He could not get back in time... So we just sat there helplessly watching the flames. Suddenly a police car drove up and shined a light in our eyes. "Would you stay here and block the runway and keep anyone else from going on the beach? We are trying to get all the lights out"... they suspected the ships had been silhouetted in front of the lighthouse.
All of a sudden, we were completely alone on the beach. It was just black. You could see the horizon and there were lots of stars, when suddenly, out of nowhere we heard this tremendous whoosh sound and the German submarine surfaced right in front of us. We saw the men come out on deck, stroll around, light cigarettes, laugh, and talk... We were just stunned. This was before the days of cell phones. We had no way of communicating with anyone. And there sits George who was in charge of a Sub Chaser and was in swimming distance of one, and suddenly there was this drone of planes and this squadron came flying over. They began diving over the sub. It was like being in the middle of war... The Germans just stood on the deck and finished their cigarettes. They must have known they didn't have any ammunition in the air base then."
The River and Sea Preserve at Marineland now is the site of yet another modern day replica of a former coast guard observation tower. Today Right Whales are spotted and not submarines.
The first peoples to reach Florida may have arrived as early as 15,000 years before present (BP). They likely would have inhabited the rich coastal ravine areas where a variety of resources flourished—due to rising sea levels since that time, archaeological evidence of these earliest peoples is limited.
The area’s climate 15,000 years ago was cooler and drier than it is today, and supported very different animals than seen here today: giant ground sloth, horses, bison, llamas, giant armadillos, peccaries, mammoths, and mastodons. The predominant archaeological traces, which the Paleo-Indians of this time left behind, are stone spear points (frequently Suwanee and Simpson styles).
The Archaic Period begins around 9,000 years ago, coinciding with rising sea levels and a new environment more similar to what is found in Florida today. By 6,000 BP, year-round villages were established along the area’s rivers.
The Orange Period is marked by the appearance of a pottery type known as Orange Pottery around 4,000 BP. Local clays tempered with plant matter produced an orange hue when fired, giving way to the style’s name.
The St. Johns period had begun by 500 BC, once Orange Pottery had been phased out by a chalky-textured pottery type known as St. Johns. Domesticated plants, mainly corn and squash, were used for the first time during the end of the time span. The St. Johns Period lasted until the arrival of the European explorers around 1500.
There are many archaeological resources identified within the corridor, but the Mala Compra Plantation ruins site is the most significant. This site has the ruins of the plantation residence of General Joseph Hernandez, Florida's first delegate to the U.S. Congress. General Hernandez was an important military and political figure in Florida's history from the early 1800s until his departure to Cuba in the 1850s. Besides being a Brigadier General of the East Florida Militia, Hernandez also served as the President of the Florida Territorial Legislative Council and Mayor of St. Augustine. By the end of the 1820s, Mala Compra was the main residence of General Hernandez. The plantation was visited by John James Audubon during Christmas of 1831; one of his paintings depicts a water bird at Mala Compra. The Seminoles burned the plantation, which produced sea island cotton and sweet oranges, in 1836 in retaliation for housing U.S. troops during the Second Seminole Indian War.There is some indication that a previous dwelling existed on the site. This could have belonged to prior owners, Josiah Dupont or Father Michael Crosby. Also, an 1818 survey of the property indicated that there were the main house and a settlement of slave cabins. The County has acquired additional land to the south of Bings Landing County Park, which may contain the ruins, or evidence of the slave settlement.Currently, the County, using Tourist Development funding, is working with the Division of Historic Resources to build a museum at the ruins. A grant from the division will be used for further study of the site, for development of displays and informational signage, and for completing the National Register nomination.
The Mala Compra Greenway extends approximately 5 miles along the corridor and offers opportunities to educate the public about the historical and natural resources through interpretive signage and kiosks along the roadway and bike paths. Bings Landing County Park combined with the Mala Compra Road Beachfront Park and the 323-acre Mala Compra Plantation Greenway create an extensive river-to-sea experience for you. Bings Landing, located on the west side of A1A within the maritime oak hammock, is adjacent to the Matanzas River. The park overlooks the marine estuary and provides important public access to the estuary. The park is the site of the historical ruins of the Mala Compra Plantation. An extensive Interpretive/Visitor Center protects the ruins and provides information about the area.
Mala Compra Road Beachfront Park offers trails through a maritime oak hammock and ocean scrub community. There are extensive coquina outcroppings along the shoreline.
The Mala Compra Plantation Greenway preserves the oak hammock along A1A through the Hammock to Painter's Hill. In Painter's Hill, the greenway preserves areas of ocean scrub. Much of the greenway is adjacent to the separated bicycle/pedestrian path along A1A from Marineland through Flagler Beach. It is in this greenway that the Hammock's famed family of peacocks will be located.
Hours of Operation: Sunrise to Sunset. Bings Landing County Park and the Mala Compra beach access are open until 11pm. For more information, call: 386-437-7490 or visit www.flaglerparks.com.
Fort Mose Historic State Park
Fort Mose (pronounced Moh-SAY) was the first legally sanctioned free black community in what is now the United States. Established in 1738 by Spanish Florida's Governor Manuel Montiano, Fort Mose provided refuge for more than 100 African fugitives fleeing from South Carolina to Spanish colonial territory. As Spanish Florida's first line of defense against the British colonies, Mose represents a unique testimony to the courageous African Americans who risked their lives in the long struggle to achieve freedom. Yet for more than 175 years, the remains of the fort and its nearby colony, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, lay buried from history on a small island in the marsh north of St. Augustine. However, thanks to a combination of efforts by archaeologists, historians, and legislators, a long lost and little-known chapter of America's colonial past has recently been recovered. Because of Mose's unusual origins and political and military significance, the Spanish documented its history with considerable care. Records show that the first group of fugitives arriving in Fort Mose in 1687 included eight men, two women, and a nursing child. In the following years, word of the Spanish policy of giving religious sanctuary to escaped slaves spread rapidly among the black population in the Carolinas and Georgia, and the number of escapees steadily increased. By 1738, more than 100 Africans had reached St. Augustine, prompting the Spanish government to establish Fort Mose and the nearby community of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose. Thirty-eight households of men, women, and children lived at Mose, learning the language and customs of the English, Indians, and Spanish.Located just two miles north of St. Augustine, Mose was the Spanish colony's first line of defense against English attack. A free black militia was formed in 1738, headed by Francisco Menendez, an escaped slave who had achieved the rank of Captain in the St. Augustine militia. The original fort was a small, twenty-meter-square enclosure, containing a watchtower, a well, and a guardhouse. With three walls made of earth, stakes, and cactus, the fort was surrounded by a shallow moat and rested on a tidal creek to the east. Residents of Mose came from diverse cultures in the Caribbean and West Africa, and their skilled labor, technology, art, music, ideas, and traditions served as valuable resources to the Spanish residents of nearby St. Augustine. -- Story by Robbi Burgi from Florida History & The Arts Magazine.
The Battle of Fort Mose
War was declared between Spain and Britain in September 1739. The North American colonies became involved when General James Oglethorpe, founder and governor of the new British colony of Georgia, marched on St. Augustine in May 1740. For the attack, he brought a combined force that included the British 42nd Regiment, the Highland (Scottish) Independent Company Foot, South Carolina Militia, Georgia volunteers, and Indian allies. At the approach, the inhabitants of Fort Mose were evacuated to the safer St. Augustine. The British overran the outlying fort and settled in on Anastasia Island to bombard the Castillo de San Marcos.
In June Oglethorpe sent out a light armed forced of 137 to intercept Spaniards foraging for food and horses outside the city. These British troops set up camp at the abandoned Fort Mose. Colonel John Palmer of South Carolina had operational control, but because Palmer was a volunteer—not a commissioned officer—Captain Hugh Mackay of Georgia held actual command of the troops. Conflicts between the two leaders as well as general mistrust between the Carolinians and the Georgians contributed to the British rout.
Colonel Palmer had experience fighting Yamassee Indians, who were Spanish allies. Because he knew the Yamassee often attacked just before dawn, he roused the men every morning at 3:00 a.m. After standing to arms for a time, they would return to sleep. The stage was set for the events of the morning of June 26, 1740, which the British called "Bloody Mose."
The black militia was included in the Spanish forces, and Francisco Menendez was commended for his valor and leadership. The British siege having failed, Oglethorpe retreated back to Georgia.
The Second Fort Mose
The Fort Mose settlers lived inside St. Augustine until 1752, when their fort and town were re-built. The site included a church, a house for a priest, a well, a lookout tower, and 22 homes for the black families. They prospered there until 1763, when Florida was ceded to Britain by treaty. The Fort Mose blacks evacuated with the other Spanish citizens to the northwest coast of Cuba.
The Fort Mose Site Today
Now, more than 250 years later, the remains of Fort Mose are as fragile as were the freedoms of its long-ago villagers. Time and tide have reduced Fort Mose to remnant sections of ground-level shellstone foundations. Rising sea levels and dredging have turned the Mose site into an island in the saltwater marsh.
The Florida Park Service and the Fort Mose Historical Society, a citizen-support organization, are working to spread the story of Fort Mose and its free residents. They are acquiring land to improve access and expand facilities for the public, so you may experience the fort site while protecting the archaeological remains and the environment.
Battlefields teach us about some of the most important events in our nation’s history. They commemorate the sacrifices made by our ancestors and connect us to our past. There is much we can learn from visiting and studying battlefields.
For more information on how you can help support Fort Mose, visit the Fort Mose Historical Society’s website: www.fortmose.org
Fountain of Youth
In 1493 Don Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in America with Columbus on his second voyage. Leon and his men (not Columbus) completed Spain's claim to the New World. Ponce de Leon was made governor of Puerto Rico in 1510 and later deposed. When he heard Indians tell of Bimini, a fabulous island in the North, he equipped an expedition at his own expense in 1513. With his able navigator, Anton Alaminos, Ponce sailed the Gulf Stream, shaping the destiny of oceanic transport.Historians are unable to unanimously agree as to the accuracy of the beautifully romantic story that Ponce was seeking to find the fountain of youth. Yet it was not incredible to men of that day and age, a time during which the very existence of a New World was mind-boggling to those who had not seen it with their own eyes, to believe in the magic of this strange realm. There is no legend more appropriate to the beginning of America than that this new land should offer men a vision of eternal youth.The Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park in St. Augustine is the site where Spanish conquistadors first came ashore in what is now the continental United States. On April 3, 1513, in the season of Pascua Florida, as Easter Season is known in Spanish (meaning Feast of Flowers), Ponce de Leon's expedition sighted land in the present locality of St. Augustine. When they landed, the priest who had accompanied the soldiers said a Mass of thanksgiving as the native Timucua Indians looked on. Ponce de Leon claimed the continent for Spain, naming it "La Florida" to commemorate the Easter season and the blossom-filled coastline. Pioneer Spaniards came to know St. Augustine Inlet as Barra de la Florida. With Ponce de Leon's landing, Spanish claim to Florida was established. Leon's claim, in effect, covered all of America from top to bottom, from coast to coast. Enforcement of that claim during the three centuries to follow has indelibly marked the geography, religious history, and even the "native" customs of the nation we know today as the United States of America.
Important Archaeological Discoveries
The major archaeological discoveries at the Fountain of Youth are indicated on the yellow map you receive when you enter the park. Aside from the stone cross and salt cellar, which are housed in the spring house, five other areas of
importance are listed:
- 1. Ponce de Leon recording landmark and accompanying artifacts.
- 2. First Christian Indian burials in North America with Mission Period interments.
- 3. Timucua Indian hut foundations and relics.
- 4. Artifacts indicating Timucua habitation for more than 1,000 years prior to Ponce de Leon's arrival.
- 5. Evidence that Pedro Menendez's colony occupied the site during the 16th century.
The Fountain of Youth Park has been the site of many exciting archaeological discoveries of national historic importance. New archaeological excavations are currently underway with funding provided by the State of Florida, the Fountain of Youth, and Flagler College. The project, directed by Dr. Kathleen Deagan, renowned Florida archaeologist from the University of Florida, is a search for the foundation of the first wooden fort built by the Spanish and the first Catholic mission constructed on the site.
Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, St. Augustine, (800) 356-8222
For more information visit: www.fountainofyouthflorida.com
St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city. Deagan has spent a significant chunk of her career on this tract of land in an attempt to fill in missing pieces of century-old puzzles about Menendez and his first camp. Deagan and her team are building on work archaeologists were doing in the 1940s. Deagan is the research curator at the University of Florida Natural History Museum and a lead member of the Historic St. Augustine Research Institute, a joint effort by UF and Flagler College. She has been working on the Fountain of Youth site on and off since 1976, most of those years trying to confirm the spot was actually Menendez's camp. She and her team of University of Florida and Flagler College students now search for one of those puzzle pieces that has eluded archaeologists for decades—the actual location of Menendez's first fort. Finding it would solve the mystery that has surrounded the structure for years, and help put in perspective the first Spanish settlement in St. Augustine.Menendez set up the first successful European colony in North America in September of 1565, 50 years before the English landed at Jamestown. Deagan is conducting digs on the grounds of the Fountain of Youth and the adjacent Mission of Nombre de Dios on San Marco Avenue. With 800 people, including 26 women, he camped near the village of Timucuan Indian Chief Seloy. At the time, the village sprawled along the Matanzas River, spanning from present-day May Street to the mission. The Indians gave Menendez use of their council house, which his soldiers fortified with a moat and a breastwork of earth and wood. Bits and pieces of historical documentation tell researchers the structure would have been large—possibly able to hold hundreds of people—and that Menendez stored munitions and maybe even housed officers there. However, he was not there for long. Seloy and his people grew tired of the Spanish. They burned part of the fort and ran Menendez and his crew off in the spring of 1566. Menendez regrouped on Anastasia Island, building another settlement with a European-style fort there, and then in the 1570s moved the settlement to where St. Augustine stands today. Yet Deagan is most interested in the first landing site and that early fort. There is a major problem: while there are theories about what these council houses might have looked like—anything from oval to rectangular—no archaeological dig has ever managed to uncover one. Deagan’s team is focused on two sites: one at the Fountain of Youth and the second at the mission, where a 16th-century moat was found. At the Fountain of Youth, her team has uncovered large tree-trunk-sized posts in the ground, which she believes might form the wall of a large rectangular building. While this is an exciting find, there is still much work to be done. Archaeology can be a long road of discovery, and researchers often spend years uncovering remnants of the past, and even longer trying to piece them together.
For example, it took years to conclusively identify the afore-mentioned plot of land as Menendez's first campsite. The discovery of a barrel well, a lime kiln, and outlines of buildings helped archaeologists and researchers reach that point. Actually, the archaeological site had been discovered in the 1950s was thought to be merely an Indian village until 1986 when Deagan and others began finding European objects there.
Nombre de Dios
Next door to the Fountain of Youth, Our Lady of La Leche Shrine marks the original permanent settlement of St. Augustine founded by Pedro Menendez and the celebration of the nation's first Mass on site. Some consider the Mission Nombre de Dios to be one of America's most sacred and historic sites. It was there, over 400 years ago, that Father Lopez de Mendoza Grajales offered the first Mass in America's first colonial city. It was the beginning of the permanent history of Christianity in what is now the United States. This mission site, which remains in religious use today and contains an early cemetery, is also located close to the landing site of the Pedro Menendez de Aviles expedition and the first Spanish village in Florida. Because it was established soon after St. Augustine in 1565, this Mission settlement constituted a highly significant part of Spain's colonial presence in Florida.Surrounded by the beauty of nature and housed amid the trees and walkways, shrines and statues give testimony to the religious faith of the settlers. The historic importance and religious significance of the mission are inseparable.The Great Cross that marks the mission's location was erected in 1965 to commemorate the St. Augustine Quadricentennial and, in turn, the mission's 400th anniversary. It is, perhaps, the most noticeable monument on the grounds. The cross is a 208-foot towering beacon of stainless steel that can be seen for miles out to sea at night.Dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche, the chapel is the historic cornerstone of the mission. It houses an exquisitely carved statue of Mary nursing the infant Jesus. The devotion to Our Lady of La Leche was established by the Spanish settlers in St. Augustine around 1615. Today, tourists come from all over the US to the Chapel of Our Lady to pray for mothers and mothers-to-be. Excavations are ongoing. The University of Florida has been conducting archaeological digs since 1993 in an effort to illuminate the secrets of the past.Explore the Mission of Nombre de Dios and take the journey that retraces the steps of America's first founding fathers.
Free admission. Phone: 904-824-2809 Web: www.missionandshrine.org
The Joseph Hernandez wharf landing site, believed to be the first in use in the early 1800s in Flagler County, has been discovered in what will become Long's Landing Estuary Park. The landing was used to ship turpentine, rum, and other locally raised products to far destinations. In March 2008, information was received by the City of Palm Coast from a local historian that initiated the investigation. As a result, with the help of an old land grant map, a determination was made where the landing site was originally located. When a current map was overlaid on the old one, the waterways were the same and on the old map, the landing was marked. Archaeologist Dana Ste. Clair was hired to research this site. To Mr. Ste. Clair’s and the City’s delight, a major discovery, which has been determined a “true archaeological jewel,” was uncovered. This Hernandez Landing site has been registered in the Florida Master Site File and has all the eligibility qualifications for the National Register of Historic Places. The authorization process is underway.
The wharf provides an optimum historical resource to promote and educate local visitors about early life in this area in North Central Florida. The City of Palm Coast is proposing to build a Long Creek Nature Preserve Environmental Education Center on this project site. Programs will provide recreational opportunities and historic/cultural history lessons to visitors and citizens.Long’s Landing is a 9.3-acre parcel that the City of Palm Coast purchased for $4.5 million in March of 2008. Aorida Communities Trust has recently awarded the City $2.55 million in reimbursement toward this purchase and would not have been possible without the $1.365 million from the Flagler County Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program.Long’s Landing corridor is comprised primarily of natural creeks, waterways, and wetlands and is a natural estuary that also serves as a vital ecological and drainage corridor foundation for Palm Coast and the Greenway Network. This project site represents a critical open piece to the link between the Long Creek and Big Mulberry Branch corridors.This property lies next to 225 additional City-owned acres where the main entrance will be located. The natural settings will provide a valuable array of recreational and natural resource benefits for everyone. The Development will include a passive park which will provide shell and paved trails; a lateral fishing pier; two kayak/canoe launch areas, one into the College Waterway and the other into Long’s Creek; wildlife observation and boardwalk; nature overlook; informational kiosks; nature/historical education center, the City’s first blue trail (which is a waterway with signs); restroom facilities; parking lot; entry road and 12-foot roadway with a turnaround for launch area.
Extensive infrastructure will be necessary for the project including rip rap stabilization, culvert improvement, wetland buffer, utilities, water, widening of a bridge for the top section trail connection located on Palm Harbor Parkway.